Four Points Along The Path

By: Brian Robertson

What is it that makes for Living Christianity?  What is the Christ Path?  How do we know we are on it and, perhaps more importantly, how do we know we have stepped off the trail and are finding out way deeper into an unfriendly wilderness?

I would suggest that there are four qualities or touchstones that determine whether your faith is alive or dead, expanding to take in those in the world you meet or hollow and showy, for the benefit not of others but of yourself and your sense of spiritual pride.

Love.  Paul put it this way: “If I speak with the eloquence of men and of angels, but have no love, I become no more than blaring brass or crashing cymbal.” Love is at the heart of Christianity, and an active love is Christianity in action, a living of the words and life of Jesus, in whom having made the choice of being a Christian we see are saying we can see this more clearly than anywhere else. The overwhelming Divine Love is unthinkable, and as Quaker Rufus Jones said, we are in a double search. We look for the Beloved and will settle for nothing less while, at the same time, it is even more the case for the Beloved searching for us.

This is unconditional love, with differences being trumped by the ability of the heart to find that of God in another person just as that person may find it in us.

Compassion. Jesus’ famous parable about the Good Samaritan is the concept of compassion in action. We have gotten so used to the story that we forget that Samaritans were hated so much by those in Jesus’ audience that the person answering in the parable could not bring himself to say anything other than, “I suppose the one who had mercy on him…”

“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead with no clothes. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

You’ll note that none of these qualities can be faked or forced, they must be a spontaneous reaction to one’s encounter with God, natural, in that a bulb is light just as God is love and compassion. As Jesus no doubt said, perhaps altered by Matthew into a parable, is telling:

For I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was lonely and you made me welcome. I was naked and you clothed me. I was ill and you came and looked after me. I was in prison and you came to see me there.”

“Then the true men will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and give you food? When did we see you thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you lonely and make you welcome, or see you naked and clothe you, or see you ill or in prison and go to see you?’

‘I assure you that whatever you did for the humblest of my brothers you did for me.’

Joy. This is, first and foremost, the Good News. Those who are lost are never really lost. Those who are poor are rich beyond their imaginations in the currency of the spirit.  Death does not overcome the Presence of God. The pure in heart will find not emptiness in their being, but the true, living Spirit of God.

As a matter of fact, the phrase, “Be of Good Cheer” is found seven times in the New Testament (King James version) and, quite powerfully, in “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).  I’ll offer up a strange analogy from my own experience. Years and years ago I worked for a television station during the summers while I studied Radio/TV/Film.  The station did a huge amount of local programming, and on one particular night we did a religious show from one Christian Church and,  on another night, from a different Chuch, both of whom would send their choirs in .

The first church from a very rich and affluent part of town, was on a Monday night. When I approached the studio I saw a woman crying outside and asked what was wrong, if I could help. She tearfully said she had missed the most recent choir practice because of an illness in the family and the choir refused to let her take part in the evening’s program.

Two nights later, a church made up of the minority community arrived. The music was amazing as only real gospel music can be, and it turned out their piano player was ill. When I mentioned I played I was drafted into service, pounding away on music that would make the Blind Boys of Alabama happy. It was, to put it mildly, an evening charged with nothing short of joy, inclusive and celebratory in stark contrast to the attitude of the group earlier in the week.

If what we have to say, what we try to live, how we hope to help others NOT Joy, then there is no reason to continue any of this for another moment.

Equanimity.  Matthew explains that God “makes his sun rise on both evil and good people, and he lets rain fall on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

Equanimity is calmness and composure of the mind and spirit, even-tempered or even-handed.  Jesus, we are told, is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow which is an astonishing thing to ponder — God’s love is not dependent on whether or not God’s toast was burned thir morning and is having a terrible day.

It is,  of course, a quality that we desperately need to develop in ourselves and as we interact with those of the world around us.


[The most beautiful people in this world I have known or know of, they display, live these qualities. They also suffer much in this world. The suffering is hard but sweet at the same time. Suffering is such a mystery. For me, when it comes to suffering as a result of love, I struggle to welcome and trust the good in it. I want to reject it, believe I did wrong, yet in my soul I know it is right.
Love hurts… love wins.]


[Putting Equanimity in this list is a stroke of genius. Such an important concept, and it is kind of a mental “glue” that puts the other traits together in a way that is applicable in real life. I would be interested to see that idea explored further.]


[What is the difference between love and compassion? How would a person cultivate both?]


[Love is a form of being and like God; embodies all. Compassion is an action of love. Compassion is loving someone or something with out having to understand what it is, how it works or what it is feeling. It is acceptance. It’s cultivated best by refusing to be indifferent.]


Thanks for the great post. Nicely written and it was great to be reminded how God’s Love is always with us and that recognizing it is a matter of the heart.
Compassion is the feeling for someone else in our heart. We feel for the people of Haiti. We hold them in compassion.
Love is greater than ourselves and our limited understanding of it makes it difficult to explain. Our Lord is the Infinite Consciousness of Love that Is, regardless of what we may believe or perceive. To know Love, ask God to show you to way. Then be open to receiving the guidance and experiences that will enlighten and enrich you in God’s name.